Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal

In October 2020, Google presented its product Google Analytics 4, "GA4" for short . It represents a new version of the already known Google Analytics Universal . On March 16, 2022, Google announced in a clear statement that users of Google Analytics Universal must switch to the new version of Google Analytics, since Google Analytics Universal will no longer be available from July 2023 Will be available. It is therefore a good idea to consider running Google Analytics Universal and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in parallel to become familiar with the changes and benefits of GA4 .

 

  • Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
  • Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
  • Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
  • Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
  • Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
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Arguments for an early change

GA4 is not only in the future, but already the "de facto" standard tracking option on the part of Google. When switching to GA4 from the existing Google Analytics Universal, most users worry about the loss of historical data and structures . It seems that there is no reason to switch to GA4 just yet (since the final switch to GA4 is not scheduled to take place until 2023), but GA4 is already so mature and extensive that there are great advantages to switching early .

  • Early use of the new features
  • Early understanding of the innovations
  • Growing into the new infrastructure
  • Direct comparison and thus early preparation for necessary changes
  • Use of the new optimized technology
  • Update security
  • No time pressure

Before deciding to switch to GA4, it often makes sense to research the topic to understand how it differs from the dwindling Google Analytics Universal.

Bahruz Jafarov
Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
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Once upon a time

When Google Analytics Universal was introduced in October 2012, it was an updated version of Google Classic. Still, it was very difficult to tell a visual difference between the two versions. What was characteristic, however, was that Google Analytics Universal was pursuing a clear goal at the time: cross-device measurements with Google Ads integration. This goal has been achieved.

Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, takes up the aspect of visual differentiation and offers a new interface as well as a new design . A distinction between GA4 and Google Analytics Universal is therefore possible from the outset. With the machine learning approach , Google tries to create a better distinction between target group platforms and gadgets. The aim is to create cross-platform tracking and thus a barrier-free environment .

Metamorphosis tracking

That most important differentiator however, between GA4 and Google Analytics Universal is that Tracking concept. Google Analytics Universal tracks the Hit approach, ie to track data or actions, hits are always sent. There are some predefined hits in Google Analytics Universal, such as Pageview Hits, Event Hits, Screenview Hits, etc. Google Analytics 4 follows the event- driven data model , unlike Google Analytics Universal. Events and concrete parameters are used to track all actions on a website. There are no categories or actions in GA4, unlike Analytics Universal. Some features that are chargeable in Google Analytics Universal are provided free of charge in GA4. This includes, for example, the Big Query function, which is helpful when evaluating complex data and is only available for Google Analytics Universal 360 customers. The monthly limit of 10 million hits/events for Google Analytics 4 has also been lifted . Both versions have the same, that they contain free and paid options .

Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
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The four events

GA4 offers the Ability to collect events automatically, such as scroll depth, video views, clicking on an external link, etc. Among other things, GA4 uses this four categorized events:

  • Auto tracked events – These events are the basis and therefore the basic tracking on a website. They are triggered automatically when someone visits the website. These automatic events are session_start, page_view, etc.

  • Enhanced Events – Are predefined events in GA4, but must be activated to make them visible.

  • Recommended Events - Are manually implemented events. When selecting the service industry, the names and parameters suggested by Google can be used. Since the number of industries listed is not sufficient, this list will be expanded in the coming years to cover as many areas as possible.

  • Custom Event – GA4 still offers the ability to track some custom events, but the definitions of events are different in Analytics Universal and GA4. In GA4 there is no category, no label and no action. They have been replaced with parameters like link_domain, link_classes, link_id, etc.
Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
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Benefits of Google Analytics 4

The advantages of GA4 compared to Analytics Universal can already be shown, and these include:

  • A simplified tracking logic - as mentioned, some events are already part of the tracking and will be automatically tracked by GA4
  • Showing the "user journey" - eg when someone visits your website on their mobile phone, accesses your website on their desktop and makes a purchase via the web app
  • Increased user engagement – ​​GA4 enables user-centric reporting to better analyze audiences
  • Custom Audiences – after user analysis, it is possible to create custom audiences and target them in Google Ads
  • Improved reporting and visualization - custom GA reports have already been improved, but it is possible to create custom charts and graphs using pre-existing templates
  • A improved data protection – GA4 can also track data without cookies using other indicators. Google wants to do justice to data protection requirements:
    • No stored IP by default - the IP addresses of users are anonymised
    • Simplification of deleting user data or specific events
  • Greater data control – in GA4 companies have more control over their data, eg this data can be deleted or shared
  • Implementing “Machine Learning” – Google aims to predict user behavior, so machine learning plays an important role in gathering complete data
Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal
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The main differences between Google Analytics Universal and GA4

 

Universal Analytics properties

Google Analytics 4 properties

Measurement

Session-based data model

Flexible event-based data model

Reporting

Limited cross-device and cross-platform reporting

Full cross-device and cross-platform reporting

Automation

Limited automation

End-to-end machine learning to improve and simplify insights

Summary

Surely since 2005, Google Analytics 4 is the biggest update from Google . In addition, GA4 is constantly being developed, updated and new functions are added. GA4 is still in a mature and fully functional beta version , which is already revealing its enormous potential . There is currently no time pressure to switch, but the saying goes: “ the early bird catches the worm ” and it is therefore highly advisable to familiarize yourself with the new GA4 and to explore and use the new features now .

Our clear tip: Use Google Analytics 4 and Google Analytics Universal at the same time at the moment! So you have all the features of both systems at your disposal, you can compare, test, use the advantages and plan for the future.

Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal

I am looking forward to you

Christian Eichinger
Office Manager
Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal Google Analytics 4 vs Google Analytics Universal